Almost half Cabinet ministers are Catholic

PM Tony Abbott

The current federal Cabinet places more Catholic politicians in positions of power than ever before in Australian history, with almost half its 19 ministers of the faith, nearly double the proportion in the general public, reports the SMH.

The Prime Minister, Treasurer and Finance, Trade, Communications, Education, Agriculture and Social Services Ministers are Catholics, and at least four others belong to other Christian denominations.

Asked by Fairfax Media about their Easter plans, half the Abbott cabinet confirmed they would be attending Mass. And while almost a quarter of the population ticked 'no religion' in the 2011 census, nobody in the Coalition cabinet would admit to being an atheist.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, a Catholic who plans to attend four church services over the weekend, said: 'I'm no saint but I try to go to all the services that are part of the Easter ritual.'

The Catholicism of the Coalition has evolved over the past several decades, said John Warhurst, an expert in religion and politics at the Australian National University.

Asked whether this government was the most powerful coalition of Catholics ever assembled in Australia, Professor Warhurst said: 'I don't think there's any doubt about it. Many of the same [Catholic ministers] were in the Howard cabinet . . . but they didn't enjoy the level of influence they have now.'

MPs tend to be more religious than the general population, Professor Warhurst said, adding that while it was 'probably a controversial point to make,' he believed public service was often more highly valued by those with a religious upbringing.

He said the migration of Catholics from the Labor Party to the Democratic Labor Party and then to the Liberals happened for social and economic reasons. Catholics have become wealthier, he said, and Labor has become more secular, making it a less appealing proposition for socially conservative voters.

FULL STORY Gospel truth: Catholics come to power (SMH)

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